The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that they have expanded the list of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) degree programs. The expanded list includes fields such as Neuroscience, Medical Informatics, Pharmaceutics and Drug Design, Mathematics and Computer Science. See the updated list of all STEM degree programs.
New STEM-Designated Programs
The new STEM-designated programs come as a direct result of the current administration’s efforts to address shortages in certain high-tech sectors of the U.S. economy. A number of agricultural degree programs have been added to the list (CIP codes 01.XXXX), in addition to Neuroscience (26.1501), certain Physical Sciences (30.XXXX), Psychology (42.XXXX), Forensic Science (43.0105), Geographic Information Systems (45.0702), certain Pharmaceutical degrees (51.20XX) and Management Science/Business Statistics (52.1301, 52.1302).
STEM-Designation Has Great Benefits
On April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security published an Interim Final Rule (IFR) titled, Extending Period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) by 17 Months for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Expanding Cap-Gap Relief for All F-1 Students With Pending H-1B Petitions. As a result, a STEM degree allows for a total OPT time of 29 months, compared to only 12 months for non-STEM degrees.
Is My Degree in a STEM-Designated Degree Program?
The first step is to find the classification number of your degree. The Classification of Educational Programs, a database provided by the Department of Education is helpful in looking up the CIP code for a specific degree. Also, the degree and its CIP code are often listed on page 3 of a student’s SEVIS Form I-20.
Once the degree classification is determined, an F-1 or OPT holder should look at the updated list of STEM degrees which, according to DHS, entitled their holders to an additional term of 17 months.
We welcome ICE’s decision to add new degrees to the list of STEM-designated degree programs. We hope that the newly released updated STEM list would benefit some of the recent graduates in these new STEM programs; or, would allow graduates of such programs who may be nearing their 12-month OPT expiration date to obtain a 17-month STEM OPT extension. Please let us know if our office can be of any assistance.